Boosting skills in the clinical trials sector


A second intake of interns has begun work with Macquarie University’s Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) as part of a program designed to increase the pool of staff equipped to run clinical trials. 

The first three graduates joined the 12-month program in May 2022, followed by three more in November. 

In line with a world-wide trend, the Australian clinical trials sector is growing, and this has led to a shortage of suitably experienced staff, including trial coordinators, across a sector that covers universities and the pharmaceutical and biomedical industry. 

Macquarie CTU has earned national and international renown as a centre of excellence in the sector. It carries out about 120 in-human trials a year, many of which are world-firsts run on behalf of pharmaceutical or biomedical companies. 

Trial coordinators tend to come from either a medical science or a nursing background, meaning that initially they have either lab or clinical experience but rarely both; in-house training is currently the only way to bridge the gaps. 

Clinical Trials Quality Manager Amy Bruce says competition was fierce for both rounds of the paid placements, with more than 100 well-qualified graduates applying each time. 

“The program is already proving to be a huge success,” Bruce says. “Every clinical trials unit does things slightly differently, so this has been a great opportunity to train people specifically to our ways of working. 

“The trainees partner with senior staff, spending six months in patient-facing roles, three months learning about the ethics process and budgeting, and three months in the lab, including data handling. Once they meet all the key competencies, they can apply for vacancies on the team.” 

Hannah Milne and Andy Arora are both Macquarie graduates who were employed in the first intake. 

Milne says working as a Clinical Trials Trainee has been an eye-opening experience that has reaffirmed her passion for patient interaction.  

“Most recently, I have been involved in the patient visits, processing patient samples in the laboratory and completing safety data collection to gain a broad perspective of what is involved in a clinical trial visit,” she says.  

“It has been an insightful and rewarding six months working at the forefront of pharmaceutical research, and I am eager to see what 2023 will bring.”   

Arora says his traineeship has been an excellent introduction into how clinical research is conducted. 

I’ve very much enjoyed the chance to work around state-of-the-art pharmaceuticals and devices most notably a robotic bronchoscope to help improve patient outcomes,” he says. 

Overall, I’ve found it extremely fulfilling to be involved in cutting-edge research and make my own impact, however small, on health innovation. 

In order to address the sector’s skills shortage on a larger scale, Macquarie is preparing to offer a Masters in Clinical Trial Practice for the first time in 2024, with an industry internship like the one provided by the CTU’s trainee program built in as a course requirement. 





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